Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Affordability... 13 schools that compare their tuition costs with their competition

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Taking advantage of a lower tuition price: an ethical affordability element

During a discussion on content strategy at our last "Writing Right for the Web"  conference someone asked if it was ethical to create content comparing the tuition of one school with that of its competitors.

I don't see anything unethical about collecting public data from the schools you compete with to gain a marketing advantage. But do many schools do this? And what type of schools are most likely to do it?

With the growing focus on "affordability" in college choice, it makes marketing sense to exploit a price advantage, especially to offset a weakness in brand strength.

The research was basic: a Google search for "compare tuition costs" followed by a review of schools that appeared on the first 5 response pages. The result: 13 colleges and universities that compare their tuition (and sometimes total costs) with those of a group of competitors. (I excluded one school that had a comparison page but was still using data from 2011. If you don't update content like this, kill it.)

Here are the results by type of institution:

Flagship public university: 1

Other public universities: 4

  • Eastern Washington University posts costs and savings vs. other public universities in the state on a "Tuition, Costs and Fees" page.
  • Eastern New Mexico University has a "Tuition Comparison" page that includes 5 New Mexico public universities, two publics in Texas, and two private universities.
  • University of Wisconsin - Superior includes three public universities, the College of St. Scholastica and "Typical MSNCU 4-Year University" at "Compare Tuition and Costs.
  • Texas Woman's University compares itself with three other Texas public universities, including UTA, on the "Tuition and Fees Cost Comparison" page.
Community colleges: 5

  • Elgin Community College hosts a "Tuition Comparison" page that includes public universities and 6 private colleges and universities in Illinois.
  • Austin Community College asks visitors to "Compare Costs" with 3 public universities in Texas and with an "average private university."
  • Guilford Technical Community College uses an interactive "Tuition Comparison Calculator" so you can individually compare GTCC costs with a mix of 15 public and for-profit universities and not-for-profit schools in North Carolina.
  • Nicolet College includes the Wisconsin flagship university, two regional publics and what we'll assume is an average "private college" cost on a "Comparing Cost of Tuition" chart.
  • State College of Florida offers associate and bachelor's degrees at community college cost levels and offers a "Tuition and Fees Comparison" chart that includes traditional 4-year publics as well as University of Phoenix and Keiser University.
For-profit universities: 2

  • Strayer University includes a "Leading the Way in Making Education More Affordable" chart to compare itself with four other for-profit universities. The chart comes near the end of a page on "Tuition Reimbursement and Tuition Management for New Students."
  • Western International University, part of the Apollo Group, has a "Tuition Comparison Guide" that compares costs with Arizona State, Western Governor's University and three other for-profit schools.
Not-for-profit private sector: 1

  • Linfield College compares per semester and per credit hour costs in adult degree programs with 16 public, private, and for-profit schools in Oregon and Washington on a "Tuition Comparison Chart."

That's all for now.

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ACT Enrollment Planners Conference in July

I'll explore more on how colleges and universities are creating affordability content on their websites at a session on "Affordability vs. Financial Aid: Crafting a New Student Recruitment Message." Check the program and plan to join us in Chicago.




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2 Comments

Charter Oak State College, an "Other public university" uses a cost comparison chart: http://www.charteroak.edu/prospective/tuition/

Disclosure: I work there.

Thanks for sending along the Charter Oaks link. I'm always looking for new examples to use in upcoming conference presentations.

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